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Online solutions to foster OHS, RCS, COVID-19 learning outcomes

 

The extractive industry has a key role to support Australia’s infrastructure, economy and workforce in the downturn. To fortify the sector’s contribution, the IQA’s suite of online educational materials will assist quarry workplaces to develop professional health and safety skills for their workers.

In recent months, the transition from physical to online work environments has become vital to the ways that businesses communicate, operate and seek information. 

As a major sector to Australia’s workforce and economy, the extractive industry has been able to continue its operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. But necessary health and safety precautions have resulted in physical face to face interactions being reduced where possible. 

During this time, the IQA has retained a strong dedication towards educating its members and the industry by providing seminars and training programs to enhance an individual’s professional skillset. 

Educational material from the IQA is designed to keep the industry up to date with the latest regulations, along with providing pathways to develop industry careers further while encouraging safe work practices. 

With learning being a continuously evolving practice, the IQA provides relevant information for all levels of the quarrying industry’s workforce to further develop career growth. IQA seminars have until recently been offered online and in person, with both formats providing an equal opportunity to broaden the scope of a person’s professional development. 

In the wake of COVID-19, the IQA has launched a suite of online learning materials via its website – quarry.com.au – and is organising webinars to encourage and grow the potential online education component for the industry. 

“Online learning and providing access beyond face to face (interaction) is a key part of the IQA’s education strategy,” IQA CEO Kylie Fahey tells Quarry.

“The online strategy sees the IQA playing a lead role with the development of global online content through IQ Connect [the joint educational initiative of the Institutes of Quarrying globally]. Prior to COVID-19 webinars were available and content was being developed for online.

“To ensure education for the industry is accessible, relevant and timely, the IQA will assess the target audience and content will be planned for online and face to face learning or a blend to ensure the best learning outcomes.”

COVID-19 RESPONSE

For COVID-19, the IQA has encouraged a more pragmatic solution to educate the industry. It has deployed its Health and Safety Management Plan Checklist, which can be applied to extractive industry workplaces to encourage a regular and interactive assessment for managing the risks of the pandemic. 

Fahey says the IQA focused on what information the industry needed to manage COVID-19, rather than repeating what requirements have already been proposed by state and federal governments.

“When looking at COVID-19 we saw that there was a lot of information available. The IQA wanted to fill a gap with its information and provide a tool that was not otherwise available,” she explains. “It’s important that we take time to reinforce all procedures and focus on toolbox talks around the health and safety messages, which goes beyond just COVID-19.”

The IQA has also provided a number of free to access fact sheets related to the impacts of COVID-19 and other health and safety matters, including anxiety. 

“The IQA has made available a range of resources at no cost to industry – fact sheets, COVID-19 Health Management Plan Checklist and webinars,” Fahey says. “People are experiencing a high degree of uncertainty and stress at this time. Dealing with the level change that we have means regular training and reinforcement is important to help people during this time.”

RCS RESOURCES

Along with the suite of COVID-19 information, opportunities to learn about respirable crystalline silica (RCS) are also available via the IQA website.

According to Fahey, it is important for quarries to manage other factors in the workplace outside of COVID-19, such as RCS.

“While COVID-19 has required a lot of changes and adaptation, there’s still a myriad of factors that quarries have to manage,” she says. “Those factors have been diminished because of COVID-19, so it’s important that the workforce stays trained and supervised, according to the requirements of the quarry.”

Following reductions to the Workplace Exposure Standard (WES) of RCS from 0.1mg/m3 to 0.05mg/m3, the IQA has sought to educate the industry on how to manage RCS as per the WES.

This RCS campaign will be conducted through a three-phase release of fact sheets, webinars and workshops. RCS fact sheets are available on the IQA’s website for free to educate the industry on product exposure, health and safety and explanation of the current guidelines. 

Webinars are also being organised by the IQA to provide further information about RCS, while face to face workshops will resume when COVID-19 restrictions are eased.  

VALUABLE LEARNING

The IQA’s courses all provide valuable opportunities to expand a person’s knowledge as a professional in the industry. According to Fahey, for a course to be effective, the ability for workers to apply their knowledge in real scenarios is required, along with providing information that elevates workplace discussions around health and safety in the workplace.

This provides an opportunity for extended learning in the workplace, rather than just completing a course — which alone is not enough to apply the full scope of what a workplace professional is capable of learning. 

“It’s about making sure that it’s appropriate in the overall outcome of what a workplace is trying to achieve,” Fahey says. “This is done by supplying  the right inputs and then the right support — whether that’s online or face to face.”

While quarrying adapts to overcome COVID-19, the IQA has ensured the industry has access to a range of information, courses and other materials in the digital space. Online learning is – and will continue to be – an important aspect of the IQA’s strategy. 

“To ensure education for the industry is accessible, relevant and timely the IQA will assess the target audience and content will be planned for online and face to face or a blend to ensure the best learning outcomes,” Fahey says.“It is important that the mode of delivery is aligned to the learner and the content.”

For more information on the IQA’s learning material, visit quarry.com.au

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